Experiencing a one-one internship interview can be stressful, but taking on a panel interview takes it to a whole new level. Companies are changing the interview process to save time and increase input when hiring future interns. Panel interviews can contain three or more higher ranked employees, all seated in the same room, all questioning you.
This type of situation requires different preparation than a standard interview would need. Communication style is key, so here are seven tips to help you get through your first panel interview.
- Do some research beforehand.
When you first learn that your interview will be in front of a panel rather than one person, ask the recruiter for the names and titles of everyone who will be on the panel. Make sure this question is polite as opposed to demanding for the names. With this information, you will gain a better understanding of what each person wants to hear. Consequently, your preparation will be more successful.
The interviewers could be in sales, service, marketing, operations, research and development, or finance. With each specialty comes a diverse set of questions and it is essential that you are ready for all of them.
- Brainstorm probable questions.
Think through possible questions each employee might ask you. It does not hurt to consider all likelihoods, as it is better to be prepared than blindsided.
Forbes.com offers the following interview advice.
“If you’re interviewing for a job as a marketing manager and you find out that one person on the panel is a sales manager, figure out the types of questions he or she might ask, such as: When you create a promotional program, what is your process to ensure it will be successful with the sales teams? What are some of the issues you’ve encountered while working with sales teams and how have you overcome them?”
- Know their names.
Nothing is more embarrassing than forgetting someone’s name. Not only does it make you seem slightly forgetful, it can also indicate that you do not care so much.
When you show up for the interview, introduce yourself to all members of the panel. It is important that you show interest in everyone, shaking their hands and making direct eye contact. If possible, ask each member for a business card and lay them accordingly in front of you so that they correspond with who is sitting where. That way you can easily match names to faces. Writing names on a piece of paper in front of you works efficiently as well.
- Modify your communication style.
No longer is this interview between you and one other person. You now have to answer questions while addressing everyone at once. This can take some practice.
It is imperative to not exclude a single member of the panel when answering. Maintaining eye contact with one person has that effect. Start off your response looking at the person who asked you the question. Then look at all the employers while making the rest of your statement.
- Make connections.
There is no better way to exemplify your listening skills than referring back to a previous question. For example, if one person asks about a mistake you have made in the past, you can refer back to a previous question about a success. Connect the two stories about how you made a mistake, but fixed it, which led to the success you previously talked about.
Referencing what was said earlier in the conversation shows that you are an active listener and care about what is being discussed in the panel interview.
- You are allowed to ask questions too.
At the end of the interview, employers expect to answer questions themselves. It is your turn. Make sure you have prepared a few of your own to ask. Never, ever, ask petty questions like what the salary is. In its place, like tip #5, make connections back to previous conversation topics.
Here’s what forbes.com had to say on this topic.
“For example, if one of the interviewers asked you to tell them what you know about the company’s key competitors, you might relate back to that with one of your own questions, such as: ‘I know we discussed some of the company’s main competitors, but I’m curious to know what each of you see as the biggest threat to the growth of the company. Is it a competitor, or is it something else?’”
- Follow up.
Once the interview concludes, thank each member of the panel individually. A few days after the interview, send a personalized thank-you note to each of the interviewers. Depending on how much time you have between the interview and the employer’s decision, this note can be handwritten or emailed. The key here is to look as sincere as possible. Send this thank-you card as soon as you can, so they can easily match the face to the card or email.
Follow these seven tips for a successful, well-conducted panel interview. Overall, preparation and listening are key. As long as you have those two aspects perfected, you are well on your way to being employed.
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